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It absolutely confounds me that the simplest thing is the hardest to explain. The fish in water analogy is a good one.

"It absolutely confounds me that the simplest thing is the hardest to explain."

But surely you must agree that Matthew Chait has found a way to explain least he has to my satisfaction. Very relevant to the piece on the sense of self is this extract from his essay entitled 'Consciousness'...

"Did you ever, a moment after you woke up, have the sudden feeling that you are exactly the same as you were when you were a small child? Then, all the adult thoughts and concerns of the day rush in and the experience is quickly forgotten. Well, that you, that consciousness that exists prior to all the particular thoughts, concerns and desires of the moment, not what you are looking at, but the looker, that's the real you, that is pure consciousness."

When I read this, I had to catch my breath, because it's so true. It made me realize that I'm just the same person as I was when I was a tiny tot.

Interestingly, Matt Chait moderates his own blog, and does not post comments he doesn't like. So you have to wonder what objections to his point of view have been raised which might demolish some of his arguments. A friend of mine raised 3 caveats to his Evolution dissertation which he did not answer:

1. Do copying errors (eg resulting in deformities) not show the process of replication is mechanistic rather than an expression of the will of the whole organism?

2. At one point he says that Mankind is the pinnacle of evolution. According to evolutionary biologists, we are just a current adaptation. If Matt means that Mind is the pinnacle, then this may seen as simply a human perspective.

3. He says that gene sequences for hyperthermophiles won’t be found in, say, cryophiles. But he also talks about gene swapping, and elsewhere refers to so-called “junk DNA”, which suggests that unused gene sequences from previous adaptations do abound.

Overall, though, I really like his style, for example in the following:

“From the identical set of genes, depending on which parts are being expressed, comes both the caterpillar and the butterfly. From our own identical sets of genes, comes our fetal body, our infant body, our child body and our adult body. From the identical set of genes comes muscle cells, brain cells, skin cells and stomach cells. All of these variations depend on which precise gene sequences are being expressed, or copied, and the execution of unfathomably complex combinations of sequences and timings of sequences. Genes are like the keys of a piano. Adding genetic information, as far as we know, only increases the number of keys of that piano. In moving from single celled creatures to humans, we have moved from one fifty thousand keyed piano to one hundred trillion pianos each with three billion keys. Yet we still have no idea who is playing these pianos, who is conducting this one hundred trillion member orchestra and who is composing this breathtaking symphony, which in the case of humans consists of ten quadrillion notes (biological processes) resounding in perfect harmony at every moment of our existence.

“Look again at this amazing discrepancy between what has been actually observed or detected regarding genes and what supernatural powers and intelligence have been attributed to them. All genes actually do, that can be observed, is allow themselves to be copied; and this is done not at their own initiative, but at the behest of enzymes to which they passively respond. That's it! And yet the genes are now considered to be, by modern biologists, the source of creativity that engendered all of life! According to Dawkins, et al., genes 'discovered' how to build bodies, how to digest food, and how to manufacture antibodies to protect themselves; they 'discovered' photosynthesis, oxygen metabolism, intra-cellular communication, and locomotion; and, ultimately, they 'discovered' love, consciousness, the human heart, the human eye and the human brain. For submicroscopic pieces of protein, of matter, that sit passively in the nucleus of a cell until they occasionally, and only in automatic response to an enzyme, allow themselves to be copied, that is a whole lot of attribution, isn't it?”

I think the use of the word “supernatural” above is excellent. It completely turns the tables on Dawkins!

What happens when, even for a moment, you stop thinking, stop dreaming, stop focusing on the outside world of things or the inside world of thoughts and feelings? Then you have an experience of the self instead of an experience of whatever it is that the self is focusing on.

Forgive me for spoiling the party, but in what sense is experiencing the self without thoughts and feelings worthwhile? Sounds boring. Sounds like nothing. That's why we have thoughts and feelings and seek out experiences, isn't it? To avoid boredom?

But surely you must agree that Matthew Chait has found a way to explain it

I think he's done as well as anyone can - I was thinking that there have been thousands and thousands of attempts at expression over the centuries, all trying to explain one simple fact. I think Jacob Boehme wrote 30 volumes himself attempting to explain the Self, and scholars and theologians have struggled ever since trying to grasp what he's talking about. It's clear that he's inspired about something, but really understanding him is in sharing the experience, not attempting to understand the descriptions of the experience.

Yet, when someone does begin to really understand the Self that Matt's writing about, the "I had to catch my breath" feeling is universal. It's so simple, so subtle, and so natural that few ever notice that the real Self never changes. As Matt suggests, the content changes, our concepts of ourselves and our world changes over time, but the context that everything is happening in never changes. Everyone, on the deepest level, is still the same Self that they were as children; the Self never went anywhere, we just forget it as we develop our concept of the self, until we eventually mistake the concepts for the context. Those who really buy into the concepts of self can become a Richard Dawkins: so certain of their concepts that they deny that there's any context at all. Or, like Dennett and Pinker, decide they need to develop the concept that the context is an illusion.

One of my favorite lines from Peter Kingsley is his comment that, "there has been no rush to look behind the scenes and discover just how much irrationality is needed to keep defending the bastion of rationality."

I think the use of the word “supernatural” above is excellent. It completely turns the tables on Dawkins!

I agree. Few materialists recognize how much magic they are relying on. Biological processes are complex and fascinating. But what's even more fascinating is the shared assumption that it all just "happened". Unfortunately, the unanswerable questions have also been hijacked by the dualists, who use things like the puzzling role of "junk DNA" to claim that their god did it. Neither side cares much for the idea that maybe instead of it "just happening", or that "my god made it happen", they're simply looking at "God happening".

As I've mentioned before, it must really creep people out.

Sounds like nothing. That's why we have thoughts and feelings and seek out experiences, isn't it? To avoid boredom?

The Self Matt's writing about can't possibly experience boredom. What Matt calls the 'sense-of-self' that identifies with content often does. The content-self looks for more and more bits of experience, while the context-Self is entirely content with experiencing. Understanding the Self requires seeing it in ourselves, otherwise we turn it into another concept.

on the subject of genes/DNA, has anyone read Dr Francis S Collins book "The Language of God?" He is the reknowned senior scientist who headed the Human Genome Project in the States, Bill Clinton credits him for finishing the "human gene map" Interesting read, he was an athiest, then called himself agnostic for the most part of his life and now a devout christian who supports evolution, a radical stance compared to traditional christian belief. Some no doubt would call him a devil in disguise, or is he a man seeking truth at all costs? According to him genes may play a bigger part than what we all may realise in most things, he uses the word "predisposed" a fait bit, which leaves me feeling a little cold.

in what sense is experiencing the self without thoughts and feelings worthwhile?

It helps us to see the water we're swimming in.

To put in more practical terms, it helps us to see our thoughts and feelings as only thoughts and feelings, so we may get less caught up in them. For instance, if a person has a tendency to overreact to certain situations, he may learn that his reaction is only a series of thoughts and feelings that he can observe from the outside. Instead of identifying with his thoughts, he learns to let them go. This can be very beneficial.

I agree Michael. I've always known this as the 'Observer Consciousness' - you know that you know that you know that you know...........................................

Have a look at this:

I’ve read Francis Collins’ book, Hope. He puts a lot of store by altruism as a ‘reason to believe’, which I thought was odd because I’ve heard biologists claim to understand it in evolutionary terms, ie they say our ancestors lived in small hunter-gatherer groups, and survived better when they co-operated to hunt, defeat predators and ward off enemy incursions. Francis Collins is very much a traditional, dualist Christian theist, isn’t he?

According to him genes may play a bigger part than what we all may realise in most things, he uses the word "predisposed" a fair bit, which leaves me feeling a little cold.

I haven't read Collins' book, Hope, but I don't necessarily see a contradiction in this statement and a spiritual understanding of reality. It may very well be that individual genetic make up and the DNA molecule behind it all is responding to a source of energy that exists in a deeper universal fabric. If this is the case, then genetic markers would have their actual source in that energy field. It's been suggested before in Western science, though I can't recall who proposed that DNA might be best understood as a sort of bar code that's built upon something deeper.

These ideas could explain things like spontaneous remission of disease. It could be that an as-yet-unknown mechanism in the underlying spiritual fabric is the ultimate cause of both the malady and the cure. DNA and other cellular processes could be responding to a deeper order of existence or energy, and changes that occur in that energy field then manifest up through the chain from there. The eastern ideas of 'chi' cultivation (acupuncture, Qigong, Tai Chi,>Falun Dafa, etc.) support this, and it could also explain the mechanism behind the alteration of physical appearance that often accompanies deep realization of Cosmic Consciousness (See Bucke's book of the same title).

If this is the case, predisposition that we can identify on the genetic level could be altered or entirely reversed by bringing about changes in the underlying energy. It's not a new idea, but it's a long way from the mainstream. It's also not fully understood by any who propose it: Deepak Chopra has suggested that the only reason we even age is because we fully expect to; but he's still aging!

Regarding Zerdini's link, a couple of good resources regarding the entire "consciousness question" are the 5 DVD Set>Consciousness, and the articles available at the>consciousness page at the What is Enlightenment? website. Hamilton's article, "Is God All in Your Head" (PDF - 4MB) is especially fascinating as he takes the reader along with him on his own process of beginning with uncertainty, leaning towards reductionism, leaning away from reductionism, and ending up right back at uncertainty. It perfectly captures the problems the scientific approach continues to encounter as they attempt to explain consciousness. The DVD set will have the same effect on anyone who absorbs the 540 minutes of interviews contained therein.

If nothing else, either one might cause someone to decide that what Chait's saying is one hell of a lot simpler.

WIE does require email registration, but it's free.

The other day I'd read an article concerning the experience of self, which featured a 'fishy' metaphor. Synchronicity? I choose to believe so.

This is slightly off-topic, but somewhat relates to Hope’s earlier comment about genetic roles. This showed up in one of my emails today: >Relaxation Response can Influence Expression of Stress-Related Genes

How could a single, nonpharmacological intervention help patients deal with disorders ranging from high blood pressure, to pain syndromes, to infertility, to rheumatoid arthritis? That question may have been answered by a study finding that eliciting the relaxation response – a physiologic state of deep rest – influences the activation patterns of genes associated with the body's response to stress.

"For hundreds of years Western medicine has looked at mind and body as totally separate entities, to the point where saying something 'is all in your head' implied that it was imaginary," says Herbert Benson, MD, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-senior author of the PloS One report. "Now we've found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented."

Towia Libermann, PhD, director of the BIDMC Genomics Center and the report's co-senior author, adds, "This is the first comprehensive study of how the mind can affect gene expression, linking what has been looked on as a 'soft' science with the 'hard' science of genomics. It is also important because of its focus on gene expression in healthy individuals, rather than in disease states."

Benson explains, "People have been using these culturally determined mind/body techniques for millenia. We found that no matter which particular technique is used – different forms of meditation and yoga, breath focus, or repetitive prayer – the mechanism involved is the same. Now we need to see if similar changes occur in patients who use the relaxation response to help treat stress-related disorders, and those studies are underway now."

Libermann notes that the sensitive genomic analyses conducted in this study are at the cutting edge of efforts to unravel the genetic aspects of complex disorders.

The full research paper is available at the open-access journal>PLoS.

"in what sense is experiencing the self without thoughts and feelings worthwhile?"

To see what other more subtle senses are available when you're not so distracted by thoughts and feelings...

In other words, Seeing Knowing and Being.

Thoughts and feelings have their place in these MEST worlds (matter, energy, space, time)...but they are not the whole enchilada.

We have direct access to so much that only appears unobtainable because of the distractions of thoughts and feelings, which attach us to them and restrict are perception and understanding by locking on them.

They keep us in time and space.

There is a pure joy that arises from the experience of Soul that helps put all thoughts and feelings in perspective.

Death becomes the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on humankind...and we discover as all the great teachers have said that heaven is within us. Literally.

Anthony Flew, noted atheist who has been converted to deism, made some remarks pertinent to this blog, in his interview with Benjamin Wiker:

“There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over.

“I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.

“Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe.”

He’s getting there, isn't he? If he reads Matt Chait, there’s still time for him to move on to monadic idealism or pantheism. As Mark Alexander has just said, "heaven is within us. Literally."

He’s getting there, isn't he? If he reads Matt Chait, there’s still time for him to move on to monadic idealism or pantheism. As Mark Alexander has just said, "heaven is within us. Literally."

E.F. Schumacher's article The Slenderest Knowledge, which is available at the WIE page I linked earlier, makes some observations that address the collective efforts that have been underway for centuries to suppress or deny the individual the realization of the genuine Self. I think Schumacher is too willing to gloss over the fact that theological dogma has never been friendly to Self-realization itself, but he makes some good points nevertheless:

"After many centuries of theological imperialism, we have now had three centuries of "scientific imperialism," and the result is a degree of bewilderment and disorientation, particularly among the young, which can at any moment lead to the collapse of our civilization. "The true nihilism of today," says psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl, "is reductionism. . . . Contemporary nihilism no longer brandishes the word nothingness; today nihilism is camouflaged as nothing-but-ness. Human phenomena are thus turned into mere epiphenomena."

"The change of Western man's interest from "the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things" to mathematically precise knowledge of lesser things marks a shift from what we might call "science for understanding" to "science for manipulation." When "science for manipulation" is subordinated to wisdom, i.e., "science for understanding," it is a most valuable tool, and no harm can come of it. But it cannot be so subordinated when wisdom disappears because people cease to be interested in its pursuit. This has been the history of Western thought since Descartes. The old science—"wisdom" or "science for understanding"—was directed primarily "towards the sovereign good," i.e., the True, the Good and the Beautiful, knowledge of which would bring both happiness and salvation. The new science was mainly directed toward material power, a tendency which has meanwhile developed to such lengths that the enhancement of political and economic power is now generally taken as the first purpose of, and main justification for, expenditure on scientific work. The old science looked upon nature as God's handiwork and man's mother; the new science tends to look upon nature as an adversary to be conquered or a resource to be quarried and exploited."

It seems to me that the "change of Western man's interest from "the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things" occurred long before the Enlightenment and the rise of the age of scientific imperialism. Perhaps the future will involve a secular interest in returning to a 'science for understanding', and an associated emphasis on the value of a personal understanding of wisdom, rather than continued emphasis on the theological interpretations thereof.

Quotes like Mark's, as well as Chait's blogging efforts, seem to indicate that there is a growing willingness in people to share what they have learned as a consequence of their own wisdom experiences, which is very hopeful. Maybe most hopeful is that it might lead others to understand that they have the same capacity within themselves.

Anyone who makes their living as a go-between (lawyers, priests, bankers) will often work to create the kind of dependency that keeps them in business. Of course there are noble exceptions.

The truth about Soul is that we all contain the Truth. And if you find the right teacher/master for you at this time, you can take the next steps on your journey.

Fortunately, God is bigger than any religion or definition. If you think you're ready for your next step to the Truth about your Self as Soul and into God--your personal Journey of Soul--all you have to do is ask inwardly, with complete sincerity.

It's that simple.

You are always heard, and your next step will arrive within days or a couple weeks. Assuming that you are genuinely willing to recognize it and walk through the door.

32 years ago, I walked outside my home one night, looked up and said, "I know you're there. I know truth exists. I'm ready. Give it to me."

It came, and it's been 32 years of unbelievable direct personal experience...unprovable to anyone outside me, but real nevertheless.

It's a tough life, facing yourself and your spiritual history. Learning to give up all desire to change others. But beyond every level of suffering into truth, beyond every Dark Night of the Soul, a greater heaven awaits.

It's all about completely giving and receiving Divine Love in service to all life. And listening every moment to Spirit's call to serve and take another customized spiritual step.

I find this commentary absolutely fascinating. When Pete draws the distinction between perceiving events as 'just happening,'or 'my god makes it happen' or simply 'God happening', that is absolutely priceless. That is the creme de la creme. Bravo!

Teri says that I am moderating my comments for fear that my arguments may be demolished. This is not quite true. I will be demolished long before my arguments. Although I don't wish to reveal much about my personal life, I have to say that I am not in a position to devote all my time to writing my blog and responding to commentaries. I do plan to publish your friend's comments but only when I have prepared a response. Since Micheal has been kind enough to recommend and link to my blog I have been inundated with comments. A few I have rejected because they seemed to be written by people that didn't take the time to even consider the ideas that I am writing about. I do not want my blog to devolve into the kind of nonsense that I often see on the internet where I always picture jowly Victorians hurling from between their mutton chops such invectives as "Balderdash!" "Tommy Rot!" "Poppy Cock!" and "Rubbish!" As part of the Divine Comedy this is absolutely hilarious, but, for me, I prefer to enjoy it at a distance.
Any comment that either shows a modicum of respect or that I feel I can respond to in a way that my readers will profit from, I will include. Peace.

When Pete draws the distinction

Teri says

Actually the name of the commenter is at the bottom, not the top, of each comment. It was Michael H and Ben, respectively, who made those comments.

Anyway, thanks for joining in, Matt. Nice to have you here! I'm glad my blog has thrown some readers your way.

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